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Das imaginäre Museum (Malraux, André), 1950

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Niépce to develop photography already served to reproduce existing pictures. [16] «The Pencil of Nature» by Talbot also contained two photographs of a bust. The consequences of this development can hardly be ranked high enough: As Walter Benjamin had already emphasized, the question whether photography (and later film) is an art—an issue discussed time and again both in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries—is secondary compared with the question «whether the very invention of photography had not transformed the entire nature of art.» [17] A second, closely related question is how the corresponding photographic archive restructures knowledge of art (history). Following Heinrich Wölfflin, Daniel Henry Kahnweiler and Walter Benjamin, the former French minister of culture and education, André Malraux, effectively formulated some of the consequences of this transformation in his book «Les Voix du Silence» (1951). His description of the field opened by photographic reproductions became widely known as the ‹imaginary museum.› Malraux's museum is imaginary because it is not bound to a particular location: Photographic reproduction not only «forces


one to examine all of the world's possibilities of expression …» [18] —such as the museum—it goes even beyond the museum, as it can also contain works of art that are bound to (unalterable) architecture—such as, for instance, frescoes. In addition, art connoisseurs had had to travel about in order to compare the works—a comparison of the picture and one's recollection of it, which, according to Malraux, caused a «certain zone of uncertainty.» In contrast, an abundance of color reproductions of most major works are available to students today. [19]

Thus photographic reproduction (and the slide projection it is accompanied by) allows works from different eras to be presented side by side on a tableau. It initially excludes color—thus again directing concentrations towards the disegno. In addition, it standardizes the sizes of the reproduced objects—the photograph of the Great Pyramids appears next to a photograph of a book miniature on one page—places fragments or detailed sections next to each other and these in turn next to whole pictures and thus—according to the context—«achieves a certain affinity between objects of representation otherwise so

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